Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo gets to a rebound before Bulls center Joakim Noah in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls 91-81 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats Monday December 31, 2012. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: February 2, 2013 6:27AM
Heads down, no smiling, churchlike quietness.
In the words of Taj Gibson, that’s what a “swagger-less’’ locker room looks and sounds like.
Then again, allowing a team to end an 18-game losing streak on your home court, that’s about the time swagger turns into embarrassment.
“You can look around in this locker room and see it in everyone’s face,’’ Gibson said after the Bulls lost to the Charlotte Bobcats 91-81 Monday afternoon at the United Center. “There’s that look of letdown, and you can see the heads are hanging.
“Even though our record is still above .500 [16-13], it should be way better than what it is now. We’ve given away a lot of games that we should’ve won. It comes down to our will. It’s time to push ourselves and get back to winning. Get that swag back.’’
That won’t happen playing the way the Bulls did Monday.
They were outrebounded for a fourth consecutive game and played without Kirk Hinrich (multiple injuries). Joakim Noah battled flulike symptoms. The team lacked energy and emotion.
The Bulls have seemed emotionless since their dramatic win in New York against the Knicks 11 days ago. They’ve looked like a team going through the motions.
“We’re not a 48-minute team,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “For some reason, and I’ve got to figure this out, I have to have us ready at the start of the game. We have to have an edge at the start of the game. We can’t ease our way into the game and say, ‘We’re good; we’ll get it corrected.’ It doesn’t work like that.’’
Falling behind 28-18 to a Charlotte team that had last won a game Nov. 24 wasn’t what Thibodeau envisioned. But neither was getting blown out by the Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets before winning an ugly game against the Washington Wizards over the last week.
The Bulls looked like they gained control of the game in the second and third quarters, outscoring the Bobcats 47-37 in that span. But Charlotte (8-23) leaned on the speed of its guards to push the intensity of the game in the fourth, and the Bulls had no answer.
Kemba Walker (18 points) and Gerald Henderson, as well as reserves Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon, kept the Bulls on their heels throughout the fourth quarter, attacking the rim off the break. Henderson finished with 16 points, and Sessions and Gordon each had 15.
“Their speed and quickness, that’s one of the Bobcats’ strengths,’’ Thibodeau said. “If you don’t have floor balance, you’re going to have problems.’’
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 20 points, and Carlos Boozer chipped in with 19 points and 14 rebounds, but that meant little for a team that has lost three of its last four games.
“You got to always keep that inner child, man,’’ Nate Robinson said. “That’s the biggest gift you can have. Playing basketball, always having that feeling like you played with when you were a kid, playing with no worries.
“As long as we play hard, it will all take care of itself. Tough times never last, tough people do, and I think we’re a tough group.
“We’ll get it back.’’